As we head into the 49ers 2011 offseason, a major topic of discussion will be free agency. We don't know when it's going to start, but when it does get going, the 49ers will have some work to do amongst their many free agents. One major issue would appear to be getting David Baas re-signed. Baas stepped in at center and ran with the role after Eric Heitmann went down in training camp. Baas hadn't played center in a regular season NFL game so it was a big time roll of the dice. Although he had his struggles, he seemed to pay dividends for the most part.
Baas has now completed six years with the 49ers which will leave him as a completed unrestricted free agent no matter what happens in the upcoming CBA negotiations. Maiocco put together a rundown of current 49ers free agents, and he indicated that the 49ers have targeted Baas for an extension and he wants to return. If that's the case it hopefully shouldn't take too long to get something done.
If he returns, that leaves the team with Eric Heitmann sitting around wondering what's going on. Heitmann is signed through the 2011 season and is due to receive $1.95 million along with a $300,000 roster bonus at some point this offseason. That's a decent chunk of change, but I don't know if it's necessarily enough to force the 49ers to cut him if Baas is the man at center going forward.
Heitmann would seem to be a prime candidate to be the primary interior lineman backup. He was a very underrated center when starting. Additionally, he played right and left guard for the first 3 1/2 seasons of his 49ers career. Personally I'd rather have him around as the primary backup at center and guard rather than Tony Wragge. Wragge has been useful, but if Heitmann slotted into that backup role, I'd imagine Tony Wragge would no longer warrant a roster spot.
Is there anybody who would actually prefer Heitmann to Baas at this point? I'm a big Heitmann fan but if you can get even a little younger (Heitmann turns 31 in February, Baas turns 30 in September), why not do it? However, that doesn't mean Heitmann isn't worth retaining for one more year at least.